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Miracle run ends as Furman upsets GSU
111007 GSU FOOTBALL 01
The Furman sideline erupts in celebration as Georgia Southern kicker Jesse Hartley's (45) 33-yard field goal attempt sails wide right with no time left on the clock to give the Paladins a 24-22 win Saturday at Paulson Stadium. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    Bobby Lamb was sure it was wide right, and Chris Hatcher thought he saw it go through. But the only vantage point that mattered was that of the referees, who signaled no good on Jesse Hartley’s game-winning field goal try.
    The 33-yard attempt on the final play of the game was ruled wide right, and archrival Furman yanked a Southern Conference title and an automatic bid to the playoffs from No. 11 Georgia Southern with a 24-22 victory Saturday at Paulson Stadium. A crowd of 23,373 — the third largest in Paulson history — witnessed the crushing Senior Day upset, Furman’s first regular-season win in Statesboro.
    “It’s probably the most heartbreaking defeat I’ve ever had as a head coach,” said Hatcher, GSU’s first-year coach.
    Earlier in the afternoon, The Citadel knocked off co-league leader Elon, paving the way for the Eagles (7-3, 4-3) to capture the SoCon crown and make plans for Thanksgiving weekend. Wofford claimed the conference title and the playoff berth by beating Chattanooga Saturday. Though Georgia Southern’s postseason hopes took a significant hit, the team could stay in the running for at at-large bid by toppling Colorado State on the road next weekend.
    With the Paladins driving late, Eagle safety Chris Covington made one of the biggest plays of the game by knocking the ball out of Jerome Felton’s hands. Terrione Benefield recovered, and GSU took over at its own 49 with 4:02 to play. The Eagles then drove to the Furman 16 before Hartley’s 33-yarder missed, allowing the Paladins to storm the field in celebration. Last week, his 44-yarder was the difference in GSU’s win at Wofford.
    “It went over the bar, so it was a judgment call,” said Hartley, who missed a 42-yarder in the third quarter and had another one blocked 19 seconds before halftime. “It shouldn’t have been that close in the first place. They should be right down the middle.”
    Furman came to town with the best rushing defense in the league and fully committed to stopping Georgia Southern’s potent ground attack, which leads the nation in rushing. The Paladins (5-5, 3-3) were successful, holding the Eagles to a season-low 170 rushing yards, and more importantly, containing GSU star quarterback Jayson Foster. Furman held the elusive senior to 82 yards on 26 carries, and it was the first time as a starting quarterback Foster didn’t rush for a touchdown.
    Lamb’s 13-year-old son didn’t think the Paladins were capable of locking up Foster, so he bet his dad $5 Furman wouldn’t hold Foster below 100 yards rushing. Lamb gladly proved him wrong.
    Despite the slow night, Foster broke the NCAA mark for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback and now has 1,649 this year. With the running lanes jammed Foster threw for 190 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on a 10 of 22 clip. His favorite target was Raja Andrews, who caught four passes for 71 yards and two touchdowns, which tied his career total.
    The Eagles were doomed in part by another lackluster third quarter and have been outscored 82-44 in third quarters this season. Furman scored two unanswered touchdowns in the woeful period for the Eagles.
    “We dominated the entire third quarter,” Lamb said. “The best (defense) against Jayson is obviously to keep the ball.”
    Georgia Southern led 15-10 at the half, but Furman marched down the field on the first drive of the third quarter and took a 17-15 lead when Felton barreled in from seven yards out. The Paladins then pushed their advantage to 24-15 with 1:32 left in the third when quarterback Renaldo Gray ran for a 9-yard score.
    A pass interference call against Furman later gave GSU first-and-10 at the Furman 18 with less than six minutes to go. Foster took advantage of the short field, hitting Dusty Reddick over the middle on a 20-yard touchdown pass – Reddick’s first-career touchdown reception - to pull GSU within two at 24-22 with 5:22 to play.
    GSU’s took its biggest lead, a 15-3 edge, when Foster found Andrews 48-yard touchdown pass 8:43 before the half. Furman cut the advantage to 15-10 on a Brantley Kendall’s 5-yard touchdown reception on a shovel pass late in the second quarter.
    For the first time this season, the Eagles didn’t score first. The Paladins had first-and-goal at the GSU 6 on their first possession but were forced to settle for a 22-yard field goal to cap an 18-play, 85-yard drive that took more than seven minutes off the clock.
    The Eagles answered when Foster hit a diving Andrews in the right corner of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown catch on GSU’s third possession. Two plays earlier, Tim Camp made a highlight-reel worthy 30-yard reception. GSU faked the extra point, and Foster passed to Austin Watts for a two-point conversion to go up 8-3 early in the second quarter.
    But the Eagles couldn’t hang on and will now work quickly to put the loss behind them and keep their season alive past next weekend.
    “We really don’t know how the selection committee picks the teams that go, so we’ve just got to take care of business, and hopefully they’ll pick us,” Foster said.